A laid-back community of 42,000 at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, Altadena has long been known for its beautiful setting, its variety of Mediterranean, English Tudor, and Craftsman-style architecture, and its tendency to attract an eclectic mix of residents.
Today, despite being 16 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles (making it a no-brainer L.A. day trip), Altadena still feels happily secluded. At spots like Fox's Restaurant, a mom-and-pop diner with red gingham curtains and a sign that reads, "the flavor of onions is enhanced by adding steak," waitresses seem to know every customer by name.
By the end of your day here, you may even agree with the town's most famous early resident, western author Zane Grey, who wrote, "In Altadena, I have found those qualities that make life worth living."
Sam Merrill Trail. WHAT: Moderately strenuous 5-mile round-trip trail, paralleling the route of the old Mount Lowe Railroad, offering great views of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Los Angeles Basin. WHEN: Daily; early August mornings are wonderful, afternoons hot. HOW MUCH: Free. WHERE: Trailhead is just beyond a stone pillar at the north end of Lake Ave., where there's free parking; www.fs.fed.us/r5/angeles or 626/574-1613.
Fox's Restaurant. WHAT: Good down-home food in a small-town setting. WHEN: Breakfast and lunch Tue-Sun. HOW MUCH: $. WHERE: 2352 N. Lake Ave.; 626/797-9430.
Webster's Pharmacy. WHAT: With mail service and boutique gifts, the family-owned pharmacy is Altadena's general store. WHEN: Daily. WHERE: 2450 N. Lake Ave.; 626/797-1163.
Saturday-night concerts. WHAT: Summer music series at outdoor amphitheater. When: 7 p.m. Aug 21 (Cody Bryant Show) and 7 p.m. Sep 10 (The Platters). HOW MUCH: Free. WHERE: Charles C. Farnsworth Park, N. Lake Ave. at Mt. Curve Ave.; www.altadenasheriffs.org/concerts.html or 626/296-2103.
Coffee Gallery. WHAT: Cozy coffeehouse that also offers acoustic performances Fri-Sun evenings in a separate room called the Coffee Gallery Backstage; reservations recommended. WHEN: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. (visit www.coffeegallery.com for performance schedule). HOW MUCH: Show tickets from $13. WHERE: 2029 N. Lake Ave.; 626/398-7917.
INFO: Altadena is 16 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Call Altadena Chamber of Commerce (626/794-3988).